Red Sox right-hander Collin McHugh has announced his intention to opt out of the 2020 season, according to Ian Browne of MLB.com. Per Browne, McHugh said that his arm hasn’t recovered as well as he’d hoped after an elbow procedure in December.
As such, McHugh expected to spend a portion of the season on the injured list, and manager Ron Roenicke relayed (video courtesy of Rob Bradford of WEEI) that McHugh felt it best to spend that time at home with family during the pandemic. McHugh will be removed from the Boston 60-man player pool and 40-man roster.
The 33-year-old appeared to be making progress towards a return to action, but that progress seems to have stagnated recently, preventing McHugh from throwing live batting practice and ramping up into intrasquad game action.
McHugh signed on with the Red Sox in March, agreeing to an incentive-laden contract that only guaranteed him $650K for the season, but that would have allowed him to earn up to $3.625MM based on innings pitched and time spent on the active roster.
Interestingly, as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe notes, McHugh already received the entirety of his guaranteed salary for the season through the preseason advance; by opting out the season, he is forfeiting only pay from those incentives, which were far-fetched given the injury.
With McHugh choosing to sit this season out, he’ll once again enter free agency in the coming winter, hopefully at full health and ready to contribute to a Major League club. Interested teams won’t have data and footage from 2020 to rely on, and they’ll have to weigh whether to deploy McHugh as a starter or reliever. Speculatively, a contract similar to the one he signed last winter sounds feasible.
McHugh has spent the last six years of his career with the Astros, toggling between a role in the bullpen and in the starting rotation. He has succeeded in both roles in the past, though last year he faltered as a starter, shifting to relief before injury prevented him from playing in the last third of the season. He posted a mediocre 4.70 ERA in 35 games—8 starts. 2018, on the other hand, was McHugh’s best as a pro, as he excelled in a full-time relief role, notching a 1.99 ERA while striking out 94 batters in 72 1/3 innings of work.
From a baseball perspective, the loss of McHugh will no doubt make a dent in the depth of the Boston pitching staff, which was already looking thin. Nathan Eovaldi will start on Opening Day, but beyond him, there are a bunch of question marks. Free agent signing Martin Perez is probably next in line, with Ryan Weber, Brian Johnson, and Matt Hall all in the mix. Eduardo Rodriguez, back in Red Sox camp after contracting the coronavirus, will hopefully join the rotation in short order, and Zack Godley might find himself thrust into a bigger role.
McHugh is one of many players who have chosen to spend this season on the sidelines amidst the pandemic, joining the likes of David Price, Buster Posey, Ryan Zimmerman, among others. An ongoing list of players opting out can be found here.